If there was one thing that was painful about making the AMDO collection, it was the process of making a new Earhart.
Earhart is the name I have given to an aviator jacket that has been my pride and joy for a few seasons before I started working on a wool cashmere version with faux fur trim. It stands as a symbol of pain and obstinance.
There were multiple moments during the sampling process in which I questioned what was the point of persevering on a design. If this was someone else’s company, I’d have been told to abort it. Believe me, I have axed many designs on the cutting table, but this fur extravaganza would not be one of them.
I am stricken with a disease called neversettlingforthesimplethingtitis, which is odd because I did use to make simpler designs. My early works consisted of large shirts with no more than 10 panels in the pattern. In contrast, there were over 80 panels in the Earhart.
For days I stared at both my muslin sample and the first sample that had arrived from the workshop. You’d think that someone who balances her company books could have predicted that a garment made up of over five (carved up) meters of 800gsm fabric would be heavier than a tank. It turned out that clothing density played a huge part in determining comfort. A long coat weighing 4kg feels almost normal. A short coat weighing 4kg is like a baby hanging on your neck. I may be a self-taught designer who did not go to fashion school but even I know that most people would not tolerate that sort of discomfort, no matter their penchant for masochism.
Having dismissed the first sample, I embarked on a mission to shed weight. Upon making a lighter second sample, it was revealed that the interfacings we used were wrong. I wanted the Earhart to hug the body like a firm pillow, soft yet supportive. Instead – due to the tough interfacing – it felt like an unwelcome embrace from a distant aunt, ie. too firm and exhausting to deal with.
Finding the right interfacing to attain the desired stability and stiffness is contingent on experience, and luck. Sometimes you can gauge immediately what material, weight and thickness of interfacing is required for a specific fabric. Sometimes you have to test different types on a small piece of fabric. Sometimes you find out that even after testing on small swatches, it can all still go horribly wrong when all the pieces are put together.
Yet there I was insisting on getting this coat made, despite the difficulty I was facing. Without suffering I felt that I wasn’t making anything worthy of existence. Only in pain can I discover myself. I wonder whom I have to thank for this, my Catholic tiger mom, or my Catholic school upbringing.
One would be lucky if a mistake occurs on the edge of a sleeve or a collar on a conventional garment. In the case of the Earhart however, using the wrong interfacing called for a massively laborious alteration. Any one who has made a garment dislikes unpicking stitches. Considering the extent to which we had to unpick, recut, resew, re-iron, I made the call to produce a third sample to spare the technicians another round of thankless tasks, while secretly grateful that there’s no investor I had to answer to.
When there is noone who will say no to you, you are solely responsible for your own decisions. It might sound like a feel-good phrase straight out of a chicken soup book, but frankly it has caused many a sleepless night.
It was my third day of hotel quarantine when a large package arrived. In it was the third iteration of the Earhart, which – to my relief – turned out the way I wanted. Soft, lush, and lighter than all its predecessors. Like an air traffic controller, I sprung into action immediately, texting everyone, from my suppliers to assistant to the technicians, that the Earhart was finally good to go.